Marcus D.'s Daily Bite: "Hide Your Vegetables" Pasta Sauce

It's always a win when you can get your kids to eat their vegetables and my daughter is no exception.  If the texture is wrong, it looks "weird," or she just doesn't recognize it, it's not going in her mouth.  One of the things I always do in the hopes of it translating at the table, is to have her taste the sauce and give me recommendations.

"I think it needs more salt, daddy."

"It needs more sweet, daddy."

And then the magic words:

"It tastes yummy, daddy!"


This magic happened again last night.  I was experimenting with a red sauce that was pretty much a combination of three different red sauces from three different chefs I follow online that never let me down.  I snuck in carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, and spinach.  The key is to blend your veg in a blender and THEN cook it down with your tomatoes. Could you just grab your favorite jar of sauce and add pureed vegetables to that? YES YOU CAN! But making your own sauce is pretty AMAZING.

PS...She LOVED it!

Quick note about:

a. Fish sauce.  I know it seems odd to have an asian ingredient in an Italian  dish, but trust me, this works.  It brings out the umami and really puts it over the top.  If you don't have fish sauce, you can sub in 2 teaspoons of white vinagar.

b. Anchovy Paste.  It's not going to taste fishy, I promise.  It will add a satly depth of flavor that will change your life.  You will end up using it in all your soups and chilis from now on.


1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, rough chopped
2 carrots, rough chopped
1 cup spinach, stems removed, rough chopped (this is kind of light, but the more spinach you add, the greener your sauce is going to be.  It might scare them off.
8 oz mushrooms, rough chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 28oz cans San Marzano Tomatoes (whole and peeled)
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce or 2 tsp white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 cup fresh italian flat-leaf parsley small chopped and divided in half
1 tablespoon sage
1 cup milk (you can use heavy cream if you want, I don't).
3 oz fresh grated parmesan cheese(PLEASE don't use pre-grated, it has anti-caking agents in it that won't react properly in your sauce.
Salt and Pepper to taste


1.  Pour Olive Oil into a dutch oven or similar pot and heat on medium till shimmering.  Add onions and sweat them (you may have to turn the heat down a notch) for about 15 minutes with a pinch of salt, don't let them burn.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

2. While your onions are sweating, dump the garlic, celery, carrots, mushrooms, parsley, and spinach into a food processor or Vitamix (just make sure whatever blender you use can handle it). Add a little water if necessary to get the blending process started.  Pulse the vegetables a few times.  I like mine broken all the way down, it makes them easier to hide from my little. 

3. After your onions turn translucent and have sweated for the full 15, add your red wine and let that reduce until almost all the liquid is gone.  Feel free to turn the heat up a bit, as needed.  Keep building those flavors!

4.  Stir in the tomato paste and anchovy paste let that cook for 2 minutes. Then add your pureed vegetables, sage, oregano, and half the parsley to the pot and let it cook (turn the heat back up to medium) for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. While your veg is cooking, dump your tomatoes into a large bowl and just crush them with your hands.  Don't use a blender.  I don't really know why, but they ALWAYS say to crush with your hands (and they talk a lot).  This is a PERFECT step to get your little involved in, my daughter LOVES helping with this part. If you're going to do that, crush them beforehand.  You don't want your child knee-deep in tomatoes while  Just make sure you keep their hands submerged in the liquid while they are crushing the tomatoes or you'll have a red wedding on your hands.

6. Add your chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, sugar, and milk or cream.

7. Simmer on medium-low to medium for at least 90 minutes stirring occasionally.  

8. Stir in the fish sauce, parmesan cheese, and the rest of the parsley.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.


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